Degree Works
New system to help students stay on track to degrees

The college will begin using new degree-planning software during the spring semester to give students a visually informative tool to stay on course for graduation and a process that eventually should ease transferring among all SUNY schools.

Registrar Jerret LeMay has led an implementation team since March working with Degree Works software from Ellucian as well as the SUNY Information Technology Exchange Center in Buffalo, which will host the system.

Screen shot of Degree Works softwareDegree Works will replace CAPP reports, used around campus in academic advisement and elsewhere to chart student progress toward a degree.

“The biggest advantage of this software is its clearly stated information on what needs to be done to complete” a degree, LeMay said.

Another advantage is a “What If” tool to explore academic options such as changing majors or adding a minor, providing rapid advice that currently could take a student and his or her adviser many times as long working through degree requirements and per-semester course availability, he said.

Closely related is the “Look Ahead” feature, which will give students the ability to plug in prospective courses to obtain an instant look at section availability and how the courses would affect their degree audit.

“It’s very dynamic, very action-oriented,” LeMay said. “It gives students and their advisers the resources to move forward.”

SUNY support

The State University of New York has partnered with software maker Ellucian (formerly SunGard) to offer Degree Works to the 64 higher-education institutions around the system, in cohorts of three or four colleges. SUNY Potsdam, Mohawk Valley Community College and two others had purchased Degree Works before the statewide agreement, but Oswego is in the first group—with Oneonta and Geneseo—testing and planning to implement it through SUNY, LeMay said.

LeMay said Oswego would like to see the networked software ready for students and advisers to use this spring, before registration for fall 2013 classes begins. GenEd 21—the new general education curriculum—begins in fall 2013, and it would be easier to just program the new requirements into the new system.

“SUNY has to come through with a production environment, and hopefully will do it in a timely way,” LeMay said.

Meanwhile, the Oswego implementation team—including representatives of the Provost’s Office, academic advisement, Campus Technology Services and the Registrar’s Office—continues with rule writing for programs that include 112 majors and 60 minors. Advisement coordinators from across campus have been asked to review work in progress.

Faculty and staff likely will be offered initial training on Degree Works starting in Winter Breakout, LeMay said.

‘More depth, breadth’

Deb McAndrew, associate advisement coordinator in psychology and human development, has worked with the implementation team since its inception.

“Students here are so fortunate they can do two majors and a minor or a major and two minors,” McAndrew said. “Now they can see what they would need and don’t have to panic about how to get this done.”

Eventually, she said, networking with SUNY’s community colleges as well as comprehensive colleges and universities will quickly capture the relevant information on credits earned through other SUNY institutions.

Degree Works “has more depth and breadth and a very positive user interface,” McAndrew said.

LeMay pointed out that the software will show what requirements have been completed and which are not yet met (the Registration Checklist tool), integrate with course availability schedules and course descriptions, clearly show deviations and waivers and, eventually, allow prospective students to compare degree requirements among SUNY schools.

SUNY so far has shouldered the costs of the project with the assistance of a federal grant through the state Education Department, though Oswego and other SUNY institutions will pay an annual licensing fee after two years on the Degree Works system, LeMay said.

For more information on Degree Works at Oswego, visit http://www.oswego.edu/administration/registrar/degreeworks.html.

PHOTO CAPTION: Planning tool—Degree Works, software in development that will help students stay on track to degrees, includes a “What If” feature to allow students to explore—with live class-availability information—scenarios such adding a major or a minor.

(Posted: Nov 16, 2012)